Hungarian Structuralists on Dostoevsky: A Review-Article
Király Gyula. Dosztojevszkij és az orosz próza. (Dostoevsky
and Russian Prose). Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1983.
Arpád Kovács. Roman Dostoevskogo: Opyt poetiki zhanra.
Budapest: Tankönyvkiadó, 1985.
Gyula Király, Arpád Kovács et. al., editors. Orosz
irodalmi diákkör: Dolgozatok, 1969-1979. (Student's Studies in Russian
Literature). Budapest, 1981. (Mimeographed manuscript)
During the last fifteen years a whole new generation of
Dostoevsky scholars appeared in Hungary, who, following the example of George
Lukács and Bakhtin, set out to investigate both the structuralist principles of
the novel and their applicability to the novels of Dostoevsky. The two concerns
have not appeared as separate areas of study, but rather, as Király points out
in his very impressive study, the solution to Dostoevsky's novels has appeared
to him as a precondition to the solution of the theoretical questions of the
genre itself. In other words, this very ambitious undertaking reevaluated
critically the entire heritage of word-oriented criticism of Dostoevsky, and the
novel in general, beginning with Dostoevsky's contemporaries, such as Strakhov,
and continuing through the 1920's, with Tynianov, Shklovskii, Bakhtin, Skaftymov,
Grossman, Dolinin, and on to our contemporaries, such as Komarovich, Askol'dov,
Fridlender and others.
The basic notion is that studying the poetics of the
novel, i.e., the structural principles of the genre, one arrives at
"scientifically" mesurable solid results, in contradistinction to the
ideological, sociological, i.e., ideational, analysis of the novels. The word
"poetics" is thus taken in the same broad sense as the theoretical studies of
the poetical forms understand it, in applying it to their own area of study.
Chronologically, the manuscript volume, "The Students' Studies on Dostoevsky"
shows the earliest published results of this school of thinking. Of fifteen
different studies, six are devoted to Dostoevsky (four deal with Bulgakov's
Master and Margarita, while the rest treat more traditional topics: Pushkin,
Goncharov, and, interestingly enough, also Bunin!). In the fifteen years since
the first of these studies was written, quite a few of these young scholars have
become professors in the field; for instance, László Haller (specialist on
Bulgakov) and Arpád Kovács (a prolific scholar dealing mainly with
nineteenth-century literature, especially Dostoevsky). Looking at these essays,
one is struck by the high quality of scholarship in them: most of them are well
versed in critical literature (especially Russian and Soviet sources), 153
and they show a general tendency of trying to be "scholarly" (nauchny in the Russian term), that is, moving away from "ideological", "sociological" interpretations, and approaching their subject matter from the point of view of formalistic, structuralistic or related theoretical backgrounds. They do seem to know Western literary criticism, too (Mochulsky, E. Wasiolek, Berdyaev), but they do not seem to be unduly impressed by them; the Western critics are perceived as "old-fashioned" - in need of a critical reevaluation. Bakhtin appears to be a central point of reference, even though, quite interestingly, he too comes in for criticism: his merits are treated almost in a matter-of-fact way, while the limits of his insight receive more attention. The discovery of Soviet Dostoevsky scholarship of the 1920's, e.g., A. Skaftymov, Tynianov, Tseitlin, etc., is a definite innovation in this respect,- an indication that Bakhtin is thought of not as an exclusive single giant, with no predecessors, but rather as the continuation of a certain historical trend in Soviet research on Dostoevsky.
The above statements could be applied to practically all
of the above-mentioned essays, and they are relevant also to the monograph
published by one of these former students, now professor at the Budapest
University, Arpád Kovács. His Roman Dostoevskogo, published by a Hungarian
publishing house specializing in pedagogical texts, is regarded as a sort of
textbook on the structuralist, semiotic approach both to Dostoevsky's novels and
to the theory of the novel in general. In very clearly organized chapters Kovács
presents the problem, the methodology, and the limitations of the poetical
approach to Dostoevsky's novels, dealing first with the main concepts of the
theory itself: "Predmet, metody i zadachi issledovaniia", "Roman Dostoevskogo v
issledovaniiakh poetiki, svoistva struktury krupnykh romanov i printsipy
interpretatsii"; "Roman 'prozrenie' kak predmet poetiki zhanra"; and finally a
chapter on the Gogolian tradition: "0 evoliutsii zhanrovykh printsipov: Gogol' i
Dostoyevsky"). The novels Crime and Punishment, the Idiot and the Possessed are
analyzed in the main body of the work, while Gogol's Overcoat, and Dostoevsky's
Poor People and Notes from the Underground serve as the concluding chapter in
order to point out the development of the tradition and the possibility of its
interpretation with the author's method.
For this reviewer the most interesting chapters were the
historical overviews of the critical heritage because they convincingly argue
for the need of a coherent point of view in Dostoevsky literary scholarship.
Obviously a formal, structuralist, or semiotic interpretation of Dostoevsky
certainly has an important point to make in any attempt to interpret
Dostoevsky's works consistently. As convincing as these chapters are, the
chapters dealing with application of the theory raise, at least for this
reviewer, more questions than answers. Can you, indeed, explain Dostoevsky's
essence by this method? It appears that the effort (especially the very
difficult, and to my mind stilted language, which is supposed to indicate the
seriousness of the theoretical undertaking) isn't worth the results. Kovács
himself seems to be aware of this when he writes:
обобщений Достоевского, конечно, не сводится к вышеназванным проблемам; она
обнаруживает себя в своей полноте не при литературоведческом анализе, а при
непосредственном освоении текста романов. Впечатление, порожденное
неповторимой оригинальностью и универсальностью поэтического мышления
Достоевского, может быть лишь результатом активного чтения и перечитывания
текстов. (стр. 349-350)
This sort of humility - frequently missing from many
"scholarly" investigations appears to us as a saving grace in Kovács' study.
(Or, to use an analogy, the use of the genetive singular may be a fascinating
linguistic inquiry into Pushkin's use of language, but to present the results of
such a study as the "essence" of Pushkin's poetry, obviously would be stretching
the limits of credulity). If any criticism should be raised against Kovács'
book, it would be in the sphere of the language of presentation. I'm not talking
about his having written the book in Russian (an interesting phenomenon,
incidentally; a Hungarian scholar, writing in Hungary, and the book published by
a Hungarian textbook publisher - in Russian! - which may, perhaps, be a way of
breaking through the much-lamented "language barrier" of the Hungarians, when it
comes to a lack of international recognition of Hungarian literature and
literary scholarship in general), - but rather the tendency to use an
"internationalized" vocabulary in Russian which gives the text the flavor of a
machine-translated technical manual. So, for example, words appearing in the
Russian text, mentioned here at random: dominant, detalizirovat', eksplitsirovat',
modelirovat', ignorirovanie, eveliutsionirovat', denotat, etc. The reader is
reminded of the language of A Clockwork Orange with such constructions as: "My
drugi and I in the moloko bar..." This tendency to make the Russian more
"international" does not come from any deficiency in knowing the proper use of
the language, but rather, I think, from a theoretical inclination to present
one's findings in a "scientific" terminology; in that way one competes with
"hard" sciences both for prestige and, perhaps unconsciously, for resources of
the state agencies, who clearly give preference to "scientific" investigations.
Compared with Kovács' book, Király's is rather more
voluminous; it was published two years earlier. Király appears to be the
founding father (he is a former professor of Kovács) of the current school of
Hungarian Dostoevsky criticism. This volume under review is Király's definitive
presentation of his method, which, according to the very impressive and long
list of his publications in this area, is the result of more than two decades of
preoccupation with the problem. Király's investigation of the problem is fueled
by the same basic concern that Kovács' was: to solve the theoretical issues of
the novel as a genre, as a form of literary thinking, and to do it by
investigating the development of the "Russian novel," especially Dostoevsky's
novels. The assumption is that Dostoevsky has given something basically new to
this particular genre, which had been developing over a considerable period. It
is not difficult to detect here the notion, based perhaps upon Lukács and other
Marxists, that literary forms.
just as "social structures", are subject to some sort of
Hegelian dialectics, i.e., they develop and achieve "higher and higher" forms of
development. Studying both this process and the principles of the process should
give to researchers the same sort of security that Marxist economists,
sociologists, etc., enjoy in structuring and restructuring human societies.
Király, of course, never says these things; as a matter of fact, his entire
method is really anti-ideological, or one could say "value-free". He is scornful
of those who seek ideological values in Dostoevsky's works: "The basic problem
of the Idiot, in comparison with the review written by Saltykov-Shchedrin about
the novel by Omulevskii, could not really be solved by any of the critical
schools, including the Marxist. The reason for this is that everything written
since the naively realistic narodnik approach of Mikhailovskii - The Cruel
Talent - has been written one way or other under the influence of Mikhailovsky's
suggestive ideas... The positivistic, academic literary historians, the
aestheticians, as well as the religious critics of the turn of the century, all
fell into the same pitfall insofar as they all have identified Dostoevsky with
his heroes, or with his narrator. There's no way to count all the critics - even
in our own time - who are completely convinced that in talking about the
ideational content of Dostoevsky's heroes, they have grasped the very ideas of
the writer, the very ideas of his works. The most extreme positions are taken in
this respect by the religious critics, the psychoanalysts and the
representatives of the sociological schools. But the Marxists themselves have
not remained behind in this race for false interpretations. .. The literary and
aesthetic tradition, not evaluated from a historical point of view, forced one
to simple alternatives: either to accept certain things from the past which one
wanted to see continue or reject the past." (p.375.)
The above statement shows that Király's intentions are
rather ambitious: his is not simply another form of Marxist literary criticism
of Dostoevsky, but a completely new, "scientifically" verifiable, "value-free"
Seeking the results of Király's theoretical
investigations, (or of Kovács'), one expects some strikingly new revelations
about Dostoevsky. To the disappointment of this reviewer, he found none. This
does not mean, however, that Király's book is an exercise in theoretical
hair-splitting. I do believe that Király, along with the Hungarian Dostoevsky
school, has undertaken an important work: the clarification of some of the
formal aspects of the novel as a literary way of expression. And they do go
about it in a very conscientious way: Király's book is a goldmine of critical
commentaries on the Dostoevsky scholarship of the last 100 years (especially in
Russia). But Király's language is very difficult, full of technical, confusing
vocabulary, and a truly horrible sentence structure. Reading more than 500 pages
of this difficult text does not reward the reader with a sufficient number of
Still, in another review, I have suggested the need for a
translation into English of some other West European languages of this volume,
because I believe that Király and his
talented pupils are doing something worthwhile in international Dostoevsky scholarship.
Laszlo M. Tikos University of Massachusetts
V. IA. Kirpotin. Mir Dostoevskogo. Statii. Issledovaniia.
Vtoroe, dopolnennoe izdanie. Moskva: Sovetskii pisatel', 471 pp. Cloth, 2r.
This second edition of Kirpotin's Mir Dostoevskogo includes many of the same essays as the first edition of 1980, such as the title article, "Dostoevsky's World", as well as "Lebedev and Rameau's Nephew", "Dostoevsky, Strakhov - and Evgenii Pavlovich Radomskii", "The Story 'The Eternal Husband' and Dostoevsky's Poetics", "A Raw Youth", "The Unique Genre of A Raw youth", "The Refuted Version" (on the death of Dostoevsky's father), and "The Pushkin Speech of Dostoevsky". The most substantial of these essays are the ones on "The Eternal Husband"(79pp.), "Lebedev and Rameau's Nephew"(55pp.), and "Dostoevsky, Strakhov, and Evgenii Pavlovich Radomskii" (49pp.).
The new material in the second edition comprises an additional one hundred thirty-two pages and was originally written over a period of twenty years from 1962 to 1982. Some of these essays are "Utopia in the Novel The Brothers Karamazov" (58pp.), "Philosophy and Art in the Works of Dostoevsky"(8pp.) "Dostoevsky's Alternative" (29pp.), "Dostoevsky on Pushkin's 'Egyptian Nights'" (13pp.), and "Dostoevsky on the Fate of European Civilization" (24pp.).
Missing from the revised edition is an interesting section on the representation of Dostoevsky's works in the theatre and in films, which includes reviews of the Moscow Art Theatre performance of "Selo Stepanchikova" (1970), the Gorky Theatre production of "The Idiot" (1966), the film of The Brothers Karamazov directed by I. Pyr'ev (1969), and the film version of Crime and Punishment directed by Lev Kulidzhanov (1970).
An introductory note states that some of the new material in the revised edition was written for the Dostoevsky Year, the 100th anniversary of Dostoevsky's death in 1981, and was published in journals of that time. Professor Kirpotin's latest research is represented by the article "Utopia in the Novel The Brothers Karamazov", which is published here for the first time. In this article Kirpotin notes that as an artist Dostoevsky was constantly changing - none of his works is similar to any other - and so did his vision of Utopia change over time. In the 186Os he was influenced initially by George Sand's utopianism and by the Slavophilism of Khomiakov and Danilevskii. Dostoevsky's view was a synthesis of Christian socialism and utopianism, "not very clear", according to Kirpotin. By the 1870s Dostoevsky was writing about Russia's unique historical role in an article called "The
Utopian Understanding of History" published in the June 1876 issue of the Diary of a Writer, which extolls the messianic role of Russia and Orthodoxy in the unification of the Slavs and justifies Russian ambitions with respect to the acquisition of Constantinople. Kirpotin proceeds to discuss Versilov's dream of a Golden Age and the landscape of Claude Lorain in A Raw Youth and the portrayal of Zosima in the Brothers Karamazov as yet other versions of Dostoevsky's vision of utopia. Zosima's ascetic quietism is viewed by Kirpotin as a flaw in the formulation of the novel, a flaw only outweighed by Dostoevsky's masterly characterizations.
The article "Philosophy and Art in the Works of Dostoevsky" attempts to refute Berdyaev's interpretation of Dostoevsky's philosophical point of view by mustering arguments from Hegel and Lenin. His position is that Dostoevsky was primarily an artist whose works conformed to the demands of his art and not to a systematic philosophical position. "Dostoevsky was contradictory; false social positions frequently restricted or even distorted the strength of his artistic vision, but nevertheless Dostoevsky never ceased being an artist concerned with objective reality." (p.382)
"Dostoevsky's Alternative" is in part a response to Mochulsky's interpretation of Dostoevsky as a great proponent of Christian thought. Noting how frequently Dostoevsky's letter to Fonvizina has been quoted - "'If someone demonstrates to me that Christ is outside the truth, and if truly the truth excludes Christ, I would rather remain with Christ than with the truth.'" (p.393) - Kirpotin counterposes a quotation from the writer's notebooks: "'If I believe in God for fifteen years, and then it occurs to me that it is a lie because he doesn't exist - No, it is better that I remain unhappy but with the truth than happy with the lie.'" (p.393) Among the writers influenced by Dostoevsky's contradictions Kirpotin discusses Kafka, Camus, and Gabriel Garcia Marques. "Despite the ideologues of reaction, Dostoevsky remained a humanist." (p.410)
Valerii Iakovlevich Kirpotin, born in 1898, professor and scholar at the M. Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Soviet Academy of Sciences in Moscow, has published a number of other works about Dostoevsky, including Molodoi Dostoevskii (1947), F. M. Dostoevskii: Tvorcheskii put', 1821-59 (1947,1960), Dostoevskii i Belinskii (1960), Dostoevskii khudozhnik (1972), and Razocharovanie Rodiona Raskol'nikova (1970). He has been a member of the editorial board for the Polnoe sobranie sochinenii F. M. Dostoevskogo, and he has also edited the collected works of Saltykov-Shchedrin, Nekrasov, and Chernyshevskii. He is a member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences.
Frances Isley Hardie Vanderbilt University
Lev Matveevich Reinus. Tri adresa F. M. Dostoevskogo. L: Lenizdat, 1985. 80 pp. Paper, 35k.
In his brief monograph L. M. Reinus offers an amazing amount of new information concerning Dostoevsky's frequent sojourns in Staraia Russa during the last eight years of his life. He shows how the settings and certain characters in Besy, Podrostok and Brat'ia Karamazovy, especially the latter, owe a great deal to Dostoevsky's impressions of Staraia Russa (a city, incidentally, that has existed, despite its modest size, since the Kievan period). In my opinion Reinus's conclusions are so convincing as to constitute proof of the precise influence of the city, its environs and its inhabitants on Dostoevsky as artist.
Reinus has been doing research in this area for at least twenty years, probably longer. It should rightly be called a labor of love. Though his sources include such standard materials as the letters and memoirs of Dostoevsky's wife, children and other relatives, he has also interviewed (already long ago) a good number of the oldest inhabitants of Staraia Russa - children of Dostoevsky's landlords and the like - finding a number who saw the place as Dostoevsky had. From these persons and their relatives Reinus obtained important recollected details, drawings and photographs. (The book has about thirty illustrations covering a period of one hundred years.) The only criticism I have of Reinus's work is that he does not give sufficient information about his sources. For instance, he quotes from letters without giving place of publication and page number, or he may fail to give the date of an interview. However, most of his sources seem to be verifiable, though perhaps with difficulty.
Reinus's title refers to the fact that Dostoevsky lived in three houses in Staraia Russa. The first he rented from Ivan Ivanovich Rumiantsev in the summer of 1872. The second he rented from Aleksandr Karlovich Gribbe in 1873 and shortly thereafter purchased, living in it every summer with his family through 1880. The third he rented without his family just for the winter of 1874-75 from Evtikhii Ivanovich Leont'ev, a retired major-general. In these houses he wrote part of Besy, almost all of Podrostok, and the greater part of Brat'ia Karamazovy, as well as several issues of Dnevnik pisatelia and the Pushkin speech. Only the house that he owned has survived to the present time. In 1898 it was rebuilt by Dostoevsky's former landlord, Rumiantsev. It was badly damaged by the Germans during World War II (a photo taken of it in 1944 is reproduced), and it was not restored until 1961. In 1969 an exposition of Dostoevsky's life and work, planned by G. I. Smirnov, was held in the downstairs portion of the house. Finally in 1981 a Dostoevsky Memorial Museum was established in the author's former home.
Reinus provides a wealth of fascinating data about Dostoevsky's life in Staraia Russa. Not all of this is new, but Reinus does the reader a service by gathering it all into one volume. He also tells a great deal of what went on in Staraia Russa for a number of years after the death of Dostoevs-
ky. Of greatest significance is Reinus's discovery of the
degree to which Dostoevsky made use of Staraia Russa in writing Brat'i? Karamazovy. There is no doubt in my mind, after reading Reinus's book, that Skotoprigonevsk is Staraia Russa (a city, by the way, housing a stockyard; cattle were driven there from the south). Of course, there was some minor rearrangement of details. For instance, the house of Fedor Pavlovien has the outside appearance of Rumiantsev's place, but it is located on the site of the Gribbe house. The green gazebo was not "next door" in Staraia Russa, but actually in Dostoevsky's own garden (behind the Gribbe house). Stinking creek had its source in the streamlet Malashka, flowing behind that same house. The "Stolichnyi gorod" tavern frequented by Dmitrii and where Ivan and Alesha "get acquainted", is none other than the "Ermitazh" of Staraia Russa, situated next door to the stockyard and owned by I. D. Zemskov. Likewise identified are Iliusha's poor church, the mahogany furniture in Grushen'ka's house, Grushen'ka's actual dwelling (located near the cathedral), and Grushen'ka herself. The woman living in the house in Staraia Russa that was like Grushen'ka's house in the novel was also named Grushen'ka - Agrippina Ivanovna Menshova. She had an unhappy love affair with a young officer before finally marrying. (We learn something about her personality from Reinus.) Similarly, we find outlines of Dmitrii Karamazov in a certain Dmitrii Il'inskii of Staraia Russa. And the sources of various other characters are brought to light: Grigorii, Samsonov, M. M. Makarov, and so on.
This sort of information is by no means trivial - especially as there is so much of it, so well tied together. It complements nicely Dostoevsky's many other sources that we know about. Naturally we realize that the source is nothing next to the final artistic transformation, but Dostoevsky is a great writer and we wish to know everything about him. Reinus has provided us with excellent new information in a commendably succinct monograph.
Donald M. Fiene University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Georges A. Panichas. The Burden of Vision: Dostoevsky's Spiritual Art. (Gateway Editions) Chicago: Regnery Gateway, Inc., 1985. 216 pp. Paper, $8.95. (Originally published: Grand Rapids, Mich.: W. B. Eerdmanns Pub. Co., 1977)
A new paper edition of George Panichas's Burden of Vision is very welcome. This study concentrates on Dostoevsky's five great novels; it shows how these works express Dostoevsky's prophecy, his "burden of vision", which includes both hope and the despair of spiritual death. The need for spirituality in order to be human in modern secular society is a recurring theme.
The author insists on the necessity for spiritual criticism
with a moral and judgmental basis for spiritual art. The "responsible" critic must practice "moderation" and "boldness" in his work, making moral distinctions and facing the "fact" of evil and a "real Satan", in opposition to modern tendencies to reject religious, moral, and humanistic standards. Panichas succeeds as a moral critic in examining the spirituality of some of the major characters of these novels, although he often seems to be more bold than moderate in his analysis. The reader must accept his religious premises, as well as his perception of Dostoevsky's "radical" and "apocalyptic" Christianity, to be able to fully concur with some of his strong conclusions. However this study does include many references to various theologians and philosophers (notably Simone Weil) as well as to literary scholars of Dostoevsky, which contribute to a more well-rounded analysis.
In the first chapter, "Schism", analyzing Crime and Punishment, the author discusses two important features of Dostoevsky's artistic powers: the skillful use of details without reflection, as shown in the description of the murders, and the sense of drama, which is "translated" into prose fiction. The fantastic and exceptional, integral elements of spiritual art and "the very essence of reality" to Dostoevsky, are "rendered as drama and revealed as prophecy." (p.46) By asserting his will Raskol'nikov, as a prophetic depiction of modern man, achieves only "an external freedom without depth and hence without an abiding and inner substance." (pp.35-36) His sensitivity and humane feelings, expressed when he falls to Sonja's feet, prevent him from being a superman "above grace and humility" and allow him to transcend his adherence to theory. Thus, with his "breakthrough" in the epilogue, hope joins despair as part of Dostoevsky's prophecy.
The Idiot, described in the second chapter "Terror", may be seen as "not only Dostoevsky's most personal but, in some ways, his most profound novel." (p.47) Terror, an important spiritual and religious element, results from contact with the inaccessible goodness of Myshkin, the solitariness of existence without divine assistance, and the constant nearness of death, showing the full significance of the terror of suffering. Terror is especially noted in the references to Holbein's picture of the dead Christ, as well as in the great apocalyptic scene of Myshkin and Rogozhin with the dead Nastasja Filippovna. Yet Myshkin is neither a spiritual hero preoccupied with saving the world, nor a guide, or a judge. Rather he is a witness to his surroundings, who is of real help only to the children in Marie's village. His helplessness makes this the "bleakest of Dostoevsky's religious statements." (p.60) With the darkness of Myshkin's final breakdown, all the fragments of this, Dostoevsky's "most fragmented novel", are united, (p.77) Yet even in the despair of this terrifying conclusion there is hope since "holy terror" (Berdiaev's term) is "part of the pain of affirmation" (p.87), a "spiritual and purifying form of revelation." (p.54)
In "Satanism", his analysis of The Devils, Panichas emphasizes the necessity for moral commitment in criticism in his
study of Stavrogin. He explains his understanding of Dostoevsky's perception of evil and of a very real Satan to whom Stavrogin has surrendered. "Such evil cannot be explained as only what is inexplicable in life for this abrogates religious faith itself and moral responsibility." (p.94) He believes that other critics have been "consistently and overwhelmingly timid and irresolute" in their analysis of him. (p.91) Stavrogin must not be seen as a "romantic archetype of Satan", someone searching for values, with whom one should sympathize, for this prevents one from perceiving the dimension of the evil he represents. This absolute evil shows through his disguises, such as the self-deception of his false confession with Ikon, and is evident in his complete lack of positive development. Stavrogin surrenders to the very real Satan within him. (Dostoevsky's idea of Satanism is completed with the devil being with Ivan Karamazov. (p.1OO) The author believes that we also must face the "reality" of Satan. "It is grievous, too that modern man refuses to acknowledge the real Satan till he must feel him at his own throat." (p.111) He argues that such evil must be challenged and not faced with Tolstoy non-resistance. By recognizing absolute evil and Satan, Dostoevsky showed himself as a "visionary artist who ... clearly recognized that God suffers the devil to wrestle with men that they who conquer him may be crowned." (p.112)
Dostoevsky's next novel, A Raw youth, is discussed in "Purgation." This, his "most overtly didactic novel" (p.129), is concerned with personality. Panichas defines this search for one's self as a spiritual quest, for personality must have a spiritual substance to have validity. (p.120) The suffering involved in the transfiguration of personality leads to the purgation which helps one discover Infinity, for "the Absolute is the personality's deepest center." (p.123) Disorder, the original title for the work, reflects the difficult process of self discovery. Thus the author maintains that autobiography is an appropriate form here, since "confession is preparation for communion." (p.151) The complicated plot, full of coincidences, illustrates the disorder and has been unjustly criticized, for disorder also represents the "fragmentation of Value." (p. 144) "What some critics take to be incoherence... is in reality mystery. ... Personality is the celebration of mystery." (p.127) The search for personality is more difficult because of the social disintegration, noted in the breakdown of the family. Especially important is Versilov. "The major characters attain their significance either in direct or indirect relation" to this "Christian Hamlet." (pp.133, 134) Since he is continually falling, but not fallen like Stavrogin (a redeeming difference), Dostoevsky shows some sympathy for him, Sonja accentuates his more humane tendencies. His ambivalence towards Katerina Nikolaevna, however, demonstrates the disorder of passion, which to Dostoevsky is "the most brutalizing, all embracing symbol." (p.144) Arkady needs not only Versilov, but also Makar, as a spiritual father. Together Makar and Sonja show Dostoevsky's "idea of spiritual synthesis" which starkly contrasts with the disorder of Versilov's "secular humanism." (p.149) In this picture of disorder our prophet speaks not only of doom but also
of hope, for Arkady has slowly realized a spiritual trans-
formation and rebirth.
The analysis of "Saintliness" in The Brothers Karamazov concentrates on the often misunderstood figure of Father Zosima. It has been said that he "lacks convincing reality and offers unrealistic solutions to spiritual problems", that he is lacking vitality, and that he doesn't provide a "clear, moral guide." (pp.166, 167, 18O) However, Panichas maintains that the failure to understand Zosima indicates the crisis of faith of modern society and its distance from God. (pp.166, 187) Zosima's answer of love, along with his humility and patience, may contribute to the criticism of his "abstract quality" and negative "pastoral work" which "does not provide clearly defined and estimable advantages or remedies." (p.182) Yet Zosima was meant to have a "revolutionary religious significance", a "new saintliness" for the modern world created from Dostoevsky's "universalized vision" which overcame his own religious prejudices and limitations. (pp.183, 155) This is clearly a controversial view of the author's spirituality. Zosima shows a new Christianity reached through "de-creation", "Dostoevsky's radical and existential answer to the inert Christianity that Ivan castigates and refuses." (p.189) His silence of waiting in the midst of affliction, silence being the word of God according to Simone Weil, allows him to break through the affliction around him. Understanding sin and affliction helps the new Christianity to meet the world of the Karamazovs.
The author fulfills his goal of making a meditative moral criticism of Dostoevsky's greatest novels. Although some of his conclusions may be challenged, his work overall has been stimulating to Dostoevsky scholarship.
Molly Molloy San Francisco Public Library
N.N. Shneidman. Dostoevsky and Suicide. Oakville: Mosaic, 1984. 124 pp. Cloth, $19.95; paper, $9.95.
The stated purpose of this monograph on Dostoevsky and suicide is to "analyze the artistic relevance of suicide in Dostoevsky's novels within the context of the works discussed as well as within the broader spectrum of the psychological and social sciences in order that we may understand better the subconscious motives which often guide man in his actions... and to make an attempt to draw certain conclusions which help determine the function and general significance of suicide in the works of Dostoevsky" (7). Rather than being a study of suicide, however, Shneidman's book is little more than a series of loosely connected character sketches of "actual", attempted, and contemplated suicides in Dostoevsky's fiction and journalism. Little light is shed on the meaning of suicide in literature in general or in Dostoevsky in particular.
The task that Shneidman undertakes is, to be sure, no easy one. The reasons for and meanings of the suicides in Dostoevsky's novels are so various that it would seem virtually impossible effectively to bring all, or even most of them, together. How, in fact, does one link the attempted suicide of the buffoon Liamshin in The Possessed and the contemplated suicide of Raskol'nikov in Crime and Punishment, the actual suicides of the young wife in "The Meek One" and of Smerdiakov in The Brothers Karamazov, or the suicide of the girl allegedly raped by Svidrigailov in Crime and Punishment with the ideological suicide of Kirillov in The Possessed? Shneidman's few attempts to establish links prove less than revelatory. Suicide, for example, turns out to be "a literary device serving to remove a character from the scene" (surely Dostoevsky had at his disposal less drastic means for accomplishing this end), "a method to attach ideological meaning to the actions of a character", "a vehicle for the expression of the author's views", and "a symbol of deep philosophical, ethical, or religious significance" (101) - conclusions (if one can call them that) that fit other authors as well as Dostoevsky and could have easily been arrived at without having studied the texts in question.
Although it may be hard to imagine that Shneidman, or anyone tackling this subject, would come to brilliant new conclusions about suicide in Dostoevsky's work, a study of this sort could, because of its special focus, yield important insights into some of Dostoevsky's most prominent characters. But here Shneidman's study proves even more disappointing than in its general conclusions. The study proper begins with Dostoevsky's work before Crime and Punishment. But since there is only one suicide - a rather uninteresting one in "Uncle's Dream" - in all of this early work, Shneidman is compelled, in lieu of passing over this whole period entirely, to substitute "self-destructive behavior" for suicide, and then link the self-destructive behavior in the earlier works to suicide in the later works. Armed with such a definition, one could easily, of course, argue that almost all of Dostoevsky's characters are suicidal. Thus, Devushkin's alcoholism, for example, becomes "a means of spiritual suicide" (21) and the guilt of Emel'ian Il'ich, the hero of "The Honest Thief", results "in his total physical annihilation" (24). We also learn that suffering despite its usual regenerative powers in Dostoevsky can have the very opposite effect, presumably when it is self-inflicted: "... In The Insulted and the Injured the suffering of many heroes leads to their total bodily annihilation, leaving no room for spiritually enlightened life." Indeed, this sounds like a fate far worse than suicide itself.
The major part of the monograph is devoted to the novels of the 1860s and 1870s. Most readers will find little, if anything, new in Shneidman's short analyses of Dostoevsky's major suicides, and invariably the most interesting comments are those quoted from other critics. To argue that Svidrigailov commits suicide from despair, and that the despair issues directly from his spiritual bankruptcy, is to restate the obvious. Nor does reducing the question of suicide in Crime and Punishment to the loss of roots (the debauched Svidrigai-
lov having lost them and the humanitarian Raskol'nikov having I retained them) really add much to our understanding of these characters or the novel. In fact, these are precisely the kinds of commonplaces of Dostoevsky criticism that need not to be restated as facts, but to be tested, or at least demonstrated in more convincing detail.
There are also frequent inconsistencies. Shneidman justifies Dostoevsky's dispatch of Svidrigailov by saying that "after all there is no room in this world for a superman who does not put his strength to good use" (44); but given his view of Svidrigailov (putting aside his mistaken idea that Svidrigailov and Raskol'nikov are supermen), should not Dostoevsky have gotten rid of Raskol'nikov in the same way as Svidrigailov? Or is axing people to death a better use of one's strength than poisoning them, assuming again that Svidrigailov actually poisoned his wife? Furthermore, there is no attempt made to assess the significance of Svidrigailov's suicide for Raskol'nikov. The received opinions on this matter are not entirely satisfactory and a book which treats Raskolnikov's contemplated suicides should have at least broached the subject. And why is Marmeladov, who throws himself under the wheels of an oncoming carriage, not even considered as a possible suicide? After all, as Shneidman notes, Marmeladov was a suicide in one of the notebook plans, and although he is probably not a conscious suicide, Dostoevsky provides as much unconscious motivation for his suicide as Turgenev provides for the possible suicide of Bazarov in Fathers and Sons or Chekhov provides for the possible suicide of Dymov in "The Grasshopper." Marmeladov does not even contemplate suicide, Shneidman argues, because he does not have the guts. "Indeed, the weak Marmeladov has no 'guts.' In the final version of the novel he needs the strength to fight his addiction rather than to kill himself. As it is, life for him is hell, and therefore, as a believing Christian, he can be saved from suffering by death. Suicide, for Dostoevsky, is the prerogative of nihilists and unbelievers, and Marmeladov is not one of them" (46). It is difficult to understand what exactly is meant here - partly, but only partly, because Shneidman later explicitly discusses suicides of believers ("The Meek One") and suicides committed out of weakness (Olia in A Raw Youth). As he says himself: "Religious belief and faith in immortality can help man to live a useful life, but it is not always able to prevent him from inflicting death upon himself" (93).
I have chosen Crime and Punishment as an example, but readers of the monograph will encounter similar problems with the treatment, among others, of Kirillov, Stavrogin, and Smerdiakov. Of Kirillov, Shneidman writes: "By killing himself Kirillov exposes the logical implications of total freedom with terrible clarity..." (62). Is it all really that logical and clear? Must Kirillov's suicide be interpreted as an example of total freedom? One also does not know exactly what to make of Shneidman's Interpretation of Stavrogin's suicide: "He does not shoot himself, for that act requires positive action often identified with the romantic, noble notion of self-sacrifice." (Svidrigailov seems temporarily to have
been forgotten). "Stavrogin is passive and indifferent to the very end. He lets the silk cord do the job. He submits passively to his fate, doing nothing to save himself, just as he does nothing to save all those who look up to him for guidance and support" (64). One wonders who - or what - slipped the noose around Stavrogin's neck.
Scholars and students of Dostoevsky will probably find most interesting the two appendices and the chapter on A Diary of a Writer. Appendix One gives a list of all the "actual", attempted, and contemplated suicides in Dostoevsky's work, indicating the sex and age of the characters involved and their "mode" of putting an end to themselves. Appendix Two quotes in full the suicide notes of fifteen of the thirty-one characters listed in Appendix One. The chapter on The Diary of a Writer has the virtue of putting together most of the important references to suicide in Dostoevsky's late journalism. It is useful to have all this material in one place.
Gary Rosenshield University of Wisconsin-Madison
Louis Allain. Dostoďevski et l'Autre. (Bibliothčque russe
de l'Institut d'Etudes Slaves, Tome 70) Lille: Presses Universitaires de Lille,
1984. 202 pp. Paper, 85 FF.
Очередная книга Луи Аллена привлечет, без
сомнения, внимание всех исследователей, изучающих личность Достоевского. Аллен –
автор неопубликованной диссертации, посвященной как раз этой проблематике (La
Dostoďevski et Dieu. La morsure du divin
(Presses Universitaires de Lille, 1982).
Работы Аллена, по нашему мнению, стоят в
оппозиции прежде всего к «роману-исследованию» Бориса Бурсова, озаглавленному
Dostoďevski et l'Autre
не однозначно. Здесь
говорится и об отношении к «Другому» своему «Я». Такое восприятие находит
полное подтверждение в содержании работы Алена.
Книга состоит из:
хронологической канвы для биографии Достоевского, двенадцати глав,
примечаний и краткой библиографии. Каждая из глав начинается эпиграфом,
суть которого разъясняется, раскрывается на очередных страницах работы.
... С самых первых
мечтаний моих, то есть чуть ли не с самого детства, я иначе не мог вообразить
себя как на странное признание: может быть. Это продолжается еще до сих пор. (XIII:
73 - 74)
Эти слова из
послужили Аллену эпиграфом к первой главе,
озаглавленной "На первом месте Я". Эти же слова могли бы послужить французкому
ученому эпиграфом ко всей его книге, так как эгоцентризм Достоевского
выдвигается в ней как основная категория исследований. Все остальные главы (II.
"Двойная личность", III.
"Семиотика слова и жеста", IV.
"Отношение ко времени", V.
"Субъективизм и объективизм", VI.
"Другой как не Я", VII.
"Категории Другого", VIII.
"Полюс женственности", IX.
"Кооптация и владение", X.
"Перемещение и космос", XI.
"Другие в карманном виде", XII.
"Другие в коллективе") развивают исходную мысль, что Достоевский с начала до
конца своего творческого пути был эгоистом, человеком нетерпимым, очень плохо
относящимся к другим людям. Аллен для своей концепции находит доказательства так
в жизни писателя, как и в его произведениях. Разрыв Достоевского с Белинским и с
его кружком, ненависть к Тургеневу и ко многим другим литераторам, презрительные
высказывания о Врангеле, Страхове и других людях, доброжелательно относящихся к
писателю, и много подобных случаев - все это французский ученый старается
объяснить с психологической и философской точек зрения.
Одновременно Аллен показывает и анализирует
душевную борьбу Достоевского со своим "другим" Я: борьбу человека с писателем,
интровертика с экстравертиком.
Очень интересно Аллен представил свою
интерпретацию "коллективизма" в мировоззрении Достоевского: коллектив-народ для
"карманных" , обыкновенных людей - спасение от бестолкового индивидуализма;
пророки, к каким Достоевский себя причислял, могут существовать и вне
коллектива, так как они в мире занимают место между человеком и Богом. Жаль
однако, что Аллен не попробовал связать теснее этой мысли с почвенничеством, тем
более, что почвенничество, как мировоззрение Достоевского, он вполне признает
(см. его же статью: "Роман Беса
в свете почвенничества
Достоевского" , Dostoevsky Studies,
Борис Бурсов, по всей вероятности,
причислил бы Аллена к тем авторам, для которых Достоевский - писатель
автобиографический, и которые пытаются разгадать "тайну" личности русского
гения, исследуя его наследие. Бурсов оценивает такой подход к Достоевскому
отрицательно, как отказ от изучения "реальной личности" автора
Преступления и наказания
стр. 18 - 19). По нашему же мнению, книга
Аллена указывает читателям вполне реальную личность, исследуемую не только на
основе художественного творчества, но и на основе переписки, дневников,
черновиков, личных записок, высказываний современников и проч. Правда, что после
прочтения книги Алллена, Достоевского, как человека, не полюбишь. Однако это не
помешает всем восхищаться романами этого "жестокого таланта".
Andrzej Lazari, Karina Sędziwa